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Proposed changes to the Highway Code are expected to give cyclists greater priority over other road users at crossings and junctions.

In July 2020 the government launched a consultation to gather views on the effectiveness of proposed changes to the Highway Code which are intended to improve safety for vulnerable road users. The revised version of The Highway Code will be laid before Parliament for 40 days before being approved by the Department of Transport.

The proposed changes to the Highway Code are part of a £338 million investment package by the Department for Transport (DfT) to boost cycling and walking and make cities cleaner and greener. The changes will come into effect in autumn 2021 and will bring in the following:

  • a “hierarchy of road users”, which ensures that those who are most dangerous on the roads have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others;
  • drivers will be required to give priority to cyclists when they are turning into or out of a junction, or changing direction or lane, just as they would to other motor vehicles;
  • pedestrians will be given priority on pavements and zebra crossings, even by those on bicycles;
  • changes to infrastructure to improve cycle lanes;
  • construction of hundreds of miles of new cycle lanes;
  • initiatives to encourage people to make sustainable travel choices;
  • new guidance on safe passing distances and speeds to give cyclists priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead; and
  • improvements to the National Cycle Network.

As part of the new guidance, vehicle drivers and passengers are also encouraged to use the “Dutch Reach” method of leaving their vehicle, by using their right hand, instead of the left hand, to open the vehicle door. This method ensures that people automatically turn and can see if there is a cyclist close to the vehicle who would otherwise be struck by the open door.

In 2020, the number of cyclists killed on British roads increased by 40%. In 2019, 16,884 cyclists were involved in accidents which resulted in mild to serious injuries. Many of these injuries were caused by dangerous driving, leaving the injured cyclist entitled to make a claim for compensation. Whilst cyclists cannot always avoid accidents which are caused by negligent drivers, they can reduce their risk of accident or serious injury by taking sensible precautions, such as wearing high visibility clothing (particularly at night) and wearing a helmet whilst riding a bike.

The proposed changes were welcomed by Boyes Turner’s personal injury team, and by other cyclists across the firm. Peter Olszewski, a senior associate solicitor in Boyes Turner’s employment team cycles 25 miles each day and recognises how reckless car drivers can be towards cyclists on the roads. Barry Stanton, a keen cyclist and partner in the employment team commented:

“Road cycling is hazardous. Whilst most drivers allow cyclists sufficient space, a minority do not.  I have lost count of the times when I have been passed, at high speed by a motorist on a country lane, with what felt like little room, or where a driver has squeezed through a rapidly diminishing gap.  In reality there is little I can do to avoid an accident with a car given the usual disparity in speed, particularly when the car comes from behind.  The proposed changes will be helpful, especially for those cycling in towns and cities.  Safe passing distances and speeds are particularly important and should be clear and simple to use and understand.  I have cycled in the Netherlands, where there are dedicated cycle routes.  Having more dedicated cycle lanes will be helpful.  Priority for cyclists at junctions is also useful but cyclists will still need to look and pay attention to what is happening around them rather than assuming that vehicles will stop for them.  It is always important to cycle defensively”.

Boyes Turner’s cycle accident injury claims specialists await the new changes in the hope that road accidents and injuries to cyclists will be reduced and safety standards improved for the benefit of all road users.

If you or a family member have suffered a serious injury in a road accident as a result of someone else’s negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.